What Is a Meme?
A meme is an idea, piece of information, image, or trend that spreads through the culture—from a woman's cold-shoulder shirt in 2017 to catchphrases and cat emojis and gifs online. The word meme is derived from the Greek word mimeme, as in imitated thing, and a successful meme is said to “go viral,” or spread throughout the internet. The term was famously coined by Richard Dawkins in his book, The Selfish Gene, as a cultural corollary to the biological transmission of genetic information via genes and genetic recombination. Dawkins, however, is not the first to consider the meme. The German zoologist and evolutionary biologist Richard Wolfgang Semon, for one, wrote about mneme, from the muse of memory Greek goddess Mneme, in the early 1900’s. There’s an argument that memes evolve via natural selection, just as in biological evolution, with less successful memes dying out, or becoming extinct.